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How to Build a Green Home Server

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 5/19/2011

Building a green home server requires careful consideration of the components being used. Home servers are often kept on and at idle for long periods of time, so lower power consumption is extremely important. This guide to building a green home server will help you pick the right components.

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    Making it Green

    When it comes to reducing the energy consumption of a PC there is nothing which provides as dramatic of results as simply turning the computer off when it isn't being used. By doing this - or placing the computer into sleep mode - it is possible to greatly reduce the yearly energy costs of computer use. Better yet, this is an easy step to take, since Windows allows can put a computer into sleep automatically.

    However, this important step doesn't really apply to a home server. Home servers need to be able to deliver content to other computers instantly at any time of day. As a result, a home server can make a notable impact on your energy bill.

    Some increase in power consumption is inevitable, but there are ways to reduce it. This guide to building a green home server will help you pick the most energy efficient components.

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    The Processor

    Core i5 processors provide good performance with low power consumption Picking the correct processor is the most important step in building a green home server. The most power hungry processors can consume three or four times as much power as the most efficient ones, so picking the wrong processor can result in a lot of excess energy consumption.

    There are two main options here. One is to purchase a low-power processor, such as an Atom processor, which is designed for super-low power computers. The advantage of this is that power consumption will be extremely low. The disadvantage is that any compute-intensive task will take a long time. For example, you might want to rip DVDs directly to your home server. Doing this with an Atom based system would take an extremely long time.

    The second option is to purchase an energy efficient mainstream processor. The new Core i3 and Core i5 processors are a good example of such a product. They deliver a great deal of performance but also use less power at idle than any other mainstream processor. That's important for a home server, as most of its time will be spent in an idle state.

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    The Motherboard

    Motherboards don't consume a huge amount of power, but there are still ways to cut down on the power they do use. The main way to reduce power consumption is to purchase a motherboard which is small, such as mini-ITX or micro-ATX. These tend to have less hardware, which translates to slightly lower power consumption.

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    Hard Drives

    Western Digital Caviar Green Hard Drive Chances are that a computer acting as a home server is going to have quite a few hard drives. Storage, afterall, is what the home server is all about.

    Hard drives are not typically power hogs, but when you have three or four they can consume a fair amount of power, perhaps up to 20 or 25 watts.

    This power consumption can be reduced by using low-power hard drive. These hard drives, such as the Western Digital Green series, usually spin at lower speeds. They provide less performance, but consume less power. Another way to reduce power consumption is to purchase one or two very large hard drives instead of multiple smaller ones. For example, two terabytes of data could be handled by two one terabyte drives instead of four 500 gigabyte drives.

    For more extreme power savings, solid state hard drives can be used. Solid state hard drive use very little power relative to hard disks, particularly at load. However, solid state drives are still expensive, so this isn't going to be in the budget of most people building a green home server.

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    Power Supply

    A green home server needs an 80plus PSU Although often over-looked, the power supply is probably the most important component when building a green home server. Power supplies do not convert power from the wall into power that computer components can use at 100% efficiency. A less efficient power supply will therefor draw more power from the wall when powering the same amount of hardware.

    Look for a power supply which has an 80 Plus certification. This indicates that the power supply operates with at least eighty percentefficiency . Few power supplies come close to ninety percent, so an 80 Plus certified power supply is about as efficient as possible. Also, power supplies tend to be more efficient nearer to peak load, so purchasing a power supply with a lower maximum load can actually result in less power draw overall.

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    Putting it Together

    There are obviously other components which will be used to build your green home service, such as RAM and the case. However, the components listed here are the ones which have the largest effect on a computer's power consumption.

    The savings to be reaped here are large. Compared to a computer not build with power consumption in mind, a green home server following these recommendations will probably use 50 watts less energy at idle and up to 100 watts less at load.